Summary: James has a strong word for those who blame God for their sin. Read more to learn what it is as Pastor Steve examines James 1:13.
We have completed our study of trials from James 1:2-12. Now we’re considering temptation. James says in James 1:13-18, “Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”
In this passage, James gives us three truths about temptation. The first one appears in verses 13-14 where James exhorts his readers to understand who is the blame for temptation. He states emphatically that God is not the blame for temptation in verse 13, so this should never be our claim. He says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God” (v.13a). The phrase, Let no one say” is in the present tense which means, “Let no one keep on saying.” I also occurs in the middle voice. So the verse actually reads, “Let no one keep on saying to himself.” Last but not least, this is a command. “James warned against rationalizing our sin and blaming God in the midst of our battle against temptation” (MacArthur). “The prohibition, stated in the singular, demands that ‘no man,’ not a single individual, however severe his testing, is to make such a claim” (Hiebert).
He states in the next phrase when he is not to say this—“When he is tempted” (v.13b). The word “tempted” (periazo) means, “to solicit to evil.” When you are solicited to do evil, you are not to say to yourself that God is the cause. The words “by God” is not hupo, the preposition of direct agency, referring to whomever is the direct cause of something; it is apo, a preposition of origin conveying the idea of remoteness. “The quoted claim does not crudely blame God as directly tempting him, but rather charges that God is behind the situation which produced the temptation. God is responsible for bringing him into such a situation” (Hiebert). Adam said to God in Genesis 3:12, “Then the man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate." Job said in Job 31:33-35, “If I have covered my transgressions as Adam, By hiding my iniquity in my bosom, Because I feared the great multitude, And dreaded the contempt of families, So that I kept silence And did not go out of the door—Oh, that I had one to hear me! Here is my mark. Oh, that the Almighty would answer me, That my Prosecutor had written a book!” In Exodus 32:21-24 we read, “And Moses said to Aaron, "What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?" So Aaron said, "Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. For they said to me, ’Make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And I said to them, ’Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out." We even read in 1 Samuel 15:7-9, “And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt. He also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.” Samuel questions Saul’s actions in 1 Samuel 15:19-24, “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the Lord?" And Saul said to Samuel, "But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal." So Samuel said: "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king." Then Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.” All of these passages illustrate how man blames someone else––ultimately God—for their sin. Proverbs 19:3 says, “The foolishness of a man twists his way, And his heart frets against the Lord.”